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Ethics Intro

On Ethics and Ethical Behavior

"Ethos," the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-332 BCE) taught the world some 24 centuries ago, is very important for leaders to have and to demonstrate if they want to succeed in shaping public opinion. Individual and collective ethos is at the heart of who we are and what we stand for.  Aristotle perfected his principles of rhetoric " effective political speech -- and taught his students the power of rhetoric, which he explained was one of the foundation stones of [then] emerging western democracy (in Ancient Greece). 

He arrived at three important elements of persuasion that are still very relevant today,  in terms of communicating ideas and ideals -- especially for organization leaders:

  • Ethos " Who you are, what you stand for, the essence of your moral positions.  Your ethics, morals and character in today's terminology.
  • Pathos " The critical link that must be created between the speaker (the proponent of the idea or position) and the audience; today we might call it empathy, simpatico, connection.  The awakening of emotions (negative or positive) as Aristotle saw it.
  • Logos " The sign of who you are, what you stand for, as expressed in the The Word, your key messages...the communication of your ideals and ideas. The logical argument that persuades those who follow you, or whom you want to inform and impress and persuade.

The Greek phrase ethos traveled on through the centuries into the languages of western civilizations to become "ethics" in modern times.

But what are appropriate ethics / ethical behaviors for the 21st Century " personal, business, social, governmental, political, financial; in global trade; between investors and issuers?

A growing number of investors, their professional advisors, portfolio managers, corporate governance advocates, and social investors believe that...corporate performance is closely linked to strong ethical commitment...and market performance naturally follows.  Some social investors have begun calling aspects of this "natural investing."

Corporate-Investor Relations Ethics

In April 2002, as Enron, WorldCom et al dominated the headlines, the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) adopted 10 ethical guidelines to help the financial and investor relations professionals at publicly-owned companies regain, hold on to, or establish shareholder confidence in their companies.  NIRI advised that financial disclosure should follow a two-track system " the usual full report of corporate finances consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and a "Plain English" Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) that would explain in easy-to-understand (and accurate) language the key factors that drive the business, changes taking place, and other important factors that would influence investor decisions-making.   The SEC looked favorably on the process.  At the same time, NIRI introduced a new members' code in addition to its long-standing ethical guidelines for its 4,000+ individual members.  (See: )

Teaching Ethics

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I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law.

--Aristotle, on Ethics


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